How do I define success? Certainly not in terms of wealth, fame or power, at least not in the usual sense of those terms. Instead, I define success by reference to the character and quality of my relationships. That begins with my relationship with God, and extends to my relationship with my government, employers, church, parents, subordinates, spouses, children, and others with whom I have contact.
The key to understanding our relationship with God is the fact that all humans, including me and you, have violated the standards God established for our behavior. Even the slightest violation must be punished, and the established punishment is death. In other words, every single one of us are initially under a death sentence. Not a particularly successful relationship by any definition.
However, God, in His infinite wisdom and because of His love for us, provided a way to satisfy His requirement for justice, while sparing us from the punishment. God's Son, Jesus, became a man, and, in a completely unique life, lived entirely without violating God's standards. He did so, in large part, because His relationship with His Father was perfect. In other words, of all men ever born or to be born, He alone was not condemned to die. Yet, He chose to die for us, so that we could live, then rose to live again to demonstrate His power over death and His ability to satisfy God's requirement for justice.
Does this mean that all men are now free from condemnation? No, because God accepts Jesus' death in my place only if I accept Jesus as His Son. That means that I must accept His authority in my life, not just His death for me.
Why should Jesus have any authority in my life? First, because, as Creator, it is His right. Second, and just as important, it is because He demonstrated that He loved me by dying for me. He desires the best for me, even when I don't want it or recognize my need for it. Jesus saw my need for His death and willingly filled it; there is no reason to doubt that He is both capable and willing to meet my other, more practical needs, too. Since He died out of love for me, He has every reason to lead me lovingly, as well.
God requires very little of me, and, at the same time, He requires everything of me. I could do nothing on my own to satisfy God's justice. I can only rely on what Jesus has done for me. So accepting the Son of God, Jesus, His death and His life is really all that is required of me. On the other hand, my own efforts only led me to a sentence of death. To continue to follow my own ideas and impulses only leads me to more violations of God's standards. Although Jesus has paid the penalty, the natural consequences of my behavior will still haunt me. To really put that behind me, I must follow Jesus, and accept His authority in my life. Essentially, He expects me to give my life to Him, to do with as He desires, trusting that His love will result in a better life than I could ever choose for myself.
God, in His creation and throughout history, has consistently communicated His standards to us. Jesus did not abolish those standards, but instead summarized them by saying that we should love God above all, and love our neighbors as ourselves. He used Himself as the example, telling us to love each other as He loved us. Remember, He loved us so much that He died for us. In this context, love is not a warm feeling, nor is it a passionate emotion. Rather, it is the considered, compassionate dedication to seek the good of the one we love, without begrudging the personal cost. It is the highest calling that anyone could have on their life. It is also, without the desire and power given by God, utterly impossible. But, with God, all things are possible, even making me able and willing to love those who cannot or will not return my efforts.
So, then, what is success? To accept Jesus and all He has done for me, to place my life in His hands and follow Him wherever and however He leads me; to love God, and my fellow man, with my whole heart. That is success, and that is what I aim for.
If you would like to know more, please contact me. I would be delighted to help you find the answers to your questions. Or, find a Bible and read the story of His life in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. To learn more about what Jesus did for you, why, and how you should respond, read the book of Romans.